Smart Takes

The science of fuels made from algae, explained

Posting in Energy

A video from ClimateDesk explains the science behind algae-based fuel and tackles whether it's economically feasible.

Last month, President Obama touted fuels produced from immense swaths of algae as the future of energy, providing up to 17 percent of transportation fuel. But how do you get from pond scum to energy-rich fuels that can power our machines?

Reporters from ClimateDesk, a collaborative news service, put together this video explaining how scientists are studying the algae in the lab, why it is a potential fuel source, and how small companies are getting into the game.

But will algae be able to replace car fuels in the near future?

"It's not a panacea, I don't think it's ever going to be a panacea" for anthropogenic climate change and sustainable fuel, said Andrew Green, the president of Garden State bioEnterprises, a company developing algae production technologies.

But David Rejeski of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is taking a long-view. "You start peeling back a lot of the rhetoric and the jargon, what's underneath this is essentially the scientific foundation for the next industrial revolution," he said.

Photo: Flickr/Daniel Ramirez

Share this

Hannah Waters

Weekend Editor

Weekend Editor Hannah Waters is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. She writes a blog on the Scientific American network, and has written for Nature Medicine and The Scientist. She holds Biology and Latin degrees from Carleton College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure